EFF Surveys Major Tech Companies' Privacy and Transparency Policies
San Francisco - As you search the Internet, visit websites, and update your social media accounts, you entrust a wealth of data to service providers: your thoughts, your photos, your location, and much more. What happens when the government wants access to all of this information, held by companies like Google and Facebook and AT&T? Will these providers help you fight back against unfair demands for data about your private life?
Today the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) releases its third annual report, "Who Has Your Back?," which looks at major technology service providers' commitment to users' rights in the face of government data demands. EFF's report examines 18 companies' terms of service, privacy policies, advocacy, and courtroom track records, awarding up to six gold stars for best practices in categories like "require a warrant for content," "tell users about government data demands," and "publish transparency reports."
"Transparency reports have become an industry standard practice among major technology companies since we started issuing this report in 2011," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "Through those reports, we've learned more about law enforcement requests for user data. We publish this annual report to encourage companies to let users know how data flows to the government, and to encourage companies to stand up for their users."
EFF's report shows that more and more Internet companies are formally promising to give users notice about law enforcement requests for information unless prohibited by law or court order. We also found a dramatic increase in the number of companies publishing law enforcement guidelines for making data requests. This year, two companies—Twitter and Sonic.net—received a full six stars, while Verizon earned no stars.
"There's a lot to celebrate in this report, but also plenty of room for improvement," said EFF Staff Attorney Nate Cardozo. "Service providers hold huge amounts of our personal data, and the government shouldn't be able to fish around in this information without good reason and a court making sure there's no abuse. This report should be a wake-up call to Internet users that they need more protection from the companies they trust with their digital communications."
For the full report "Who Has Your Back?":
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Update: The original version of this press release said that Myspace did not receive any stars. However, since the publication of our original report, a representative from the company has notified us about previously published law enforcement guidelines and a court case in which Myspace fought for the rights of its users. Because those guidelines and court filings are publicly available, and because the guidelines make clear that Myspace requires a warrant for the content of communications, we have amended our report to give Myspace the three relevant stars.